High-speed rail services can be run on a commercially viable basis

Following a two year consultation period, the High Speed Rail Study for the Norwegian National Rail Administration has been completed. Even though the results are not conclusive, the Norwegian National Rail Administration is able to demonstrate several positive consequences of the development of a high-speed rail system.

The High Speed Rail Study has shown that high-speed rail services can be run on a commercially viable basis. <strong> Photo: Renfe </strong>   
 
In a mandate from the Ministry of Transport and Communications on 19th February 2010, the Norwegian National Rail Administration was asked to study the possibilities of constructing high-speed railway lines in Southern Norway. The mandate stipulated a number of factors for analysis: technical feasibility, investment, market potential, social economics, commercial viability, environment and safety. The study was also supposed to submit recommendations for a stage-by-stage development.

The lines under review are:
1. Oslo-Bergen
2. Oslo-Trondheim
3. Oslo-Kristiansand-Stavanger
4. Oslo-Gothenburg
5. Oslo-Stockholm
6. Bergen-Haugesund-Stavanger in combination with 1 and 3

The High Speed Rail Study has analysed lines for both 250 km/h operation (alt. C) and 330 km/h operation (alt. D).

Here are the study’s main conclusions:
 
• The construction of high-speed railways in Norway is completely feasible
• With a journey time of around 3 hours between terminal stations, there will be a huge terminal point and enroute market
• The development costs for each alternative are substantial and vary considerably depending on the proportion of tunnels on the respective lines
• The commercial viability of all lines is positive with the exception of Bergen-Haugesund-Stavanger, if costs associated with investment are not taken into account
• High-speed railways will result in reduced CO2 emissions following commissioning of the lines. The number of years before the desired CO2 emission balance is achieved will vary considerably depending on the proportion of tunnels on the respective lines
• The socio-economic aspect of all lines is negative
For detailed results, please visit the project’s website: High Speed Rail Study

The railway of the future
A great potential exists for high-speed railway lines between the major cities of Southern Norway relative to the population. The study has indicated that 30-40% of traffic on the lines would be enroute traffic, i.e. passengers boarding and alighting at intermediate stations between the respective termini. High-speed railways will significantly reduce journey times for the inhabitants of the various regions and districts between the major cities. Any realisation of high-speed railways in Norway should be implemented in a way that serves the enroute population living between the major cities.

It will then be possible to achieve the following:
• A combination of InterCity traffic and high-speed long distance trains resulting in an improved service to the regions and districts between the major cities
• An increase in both population and industrial and commercial developmen in the respective regions and districts
• An easing of pressure on the major cities

No conclusive results
In all the categories there is no individual line that emerges as the most viable, i.e. there are no clear technical grounds indicating the order in which the high-speed lines should be built. The most viable factors vary from line to line. The project has shown it would be natural to prioritise the development of lines that will be utilised by the greatest number of people. In this respect, the line most obviously in demand is Oslo-Kristiansand-Stavanger.

Oslo-Kristiansand-Stavanger first
The line from Oslo-Stavanger via Tønsberg, Porsgrunn, Kristiansand and Egersund, in accordance with alternative C, would generate around one million passengers more per annum than any of the other lines. It would actually generate 5-5.5 million passengers per annum. This does not include traffic on the InterCity line between Oslo and Porsgrunn. Long distance train traffic to Kristiansand, Stavanger and towns, regions and districts in between could be combined with InterCity traffic on the Porsgrunn-Drammen-Oslo line and the Stavanger-Sandnes-Egersund line. The realisation of such a project should prioritise construction of the sections/lines that would be utilised the most.

The project has determined that these lines should be:
1. Drammen-Tønsberg-Porsgrunn with a design speed of 250 km/h
2. Sandnes-Egersund with a design speed of 250 km/h
3. Porsgrunn-Kristiansand with a design speed of 250 or 330 km/h
4. Egersund-Kristiansand with a design speed of 250 or 330 km/h

For passengers, this means trains will stop at Drammen, Tønsberg, Torp, Porsgrunn, Arendal, Kristiansand, Mandal, Egersund, Sandnes. The journey time from Oslo to Stavanger will be around 3 hours 20 minutes to 3 hours 30 minutes if trains stop at all stations, depending on which maximum speed is chosen for the section of line between Porsgrunn and Sandnes. The fastest journey time would be 3 hours 18 minutes. Head of the High Speed Rail Study, Tom Stillesby
 
Head of the High Speed Rail Study, Tom Stillesby

– Construction of this line will link towns and regions to a greater extent than any other development. If the InterCity Drammen-Porsgrunn line is built first, a considerable amount of experience will be gained in respect of high-speed rail construction in Norway. This experience can then be built upon in future projects. If new high-speed railway lines are built in Norway, they will be able to provide continuous revenue to cover ordinary operation and maintenance costs. Thus, further subsidy of these lines will be unnecessary, says Tom Stillesby, Project Manager for the High Speed Rail Study.

The potential exists
– The study shows that the construction of high-speed railway lines in Norway is completely feasible, says Elisabeth Enger, Director of the Norwegian National Rail Administration. We are already building for high-speed operation on the Vestfold Line and are planning the same for the Follo Line. An investment in high-speed railways on the long distance routes will stimulate regional development and economic growth. What is now required is a debate on the railway’s role in a long term perspective, says Elisabeth Enger.

<strong> Photo: Renfe </strong>